A DISTRICT court judge told a Bandon media graduate charged with money mule offences that the ‘Fr Ted defence’ of money ‘only resting in my account’ is not sustainable.
David Sheehan (23), of Mill Hill, Distillery Road, Bandon appeared before Judge James McNulty at Bandon District Court last week where he pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering, whereby a sum of €100,000 was lodged into his account before being moved out again.
Sgt Paul Kelly told the court that on April 9th last year, solicitor Barry Galvin of the firm WB Galvin in Galway contacted gardaí to report that he was the victim of a fraudulent transaction.
Mr Galvin told gardaí that on April 6th he transferred €100,000 from his Bank of Ireland business account to what he thought was a client’s account in AIB. The money related to a sale which had fallen through and he had received an email from whom he thought was the client, requesting the money to be returned and lodged into this account.
Sgt Kelly said that over the next few days, €46,903.39 was directed to various other bank accounts in Ireland and Pakistan, while in Longford two ATM withdrawals of €600 and €1,500 were made before the account was frozen.
‘Prior to the lodgement of €100,000 in his bank account, Mr Sheehan had no money in his account and he allowed his account to be used by others for money laundering,’ said Sgt Kelly, who added that Mr Sheehan did not gain financially from being a money mule.
Defence solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said his client, who recently graduated in media production from a university in Sunderland, had very limited knowledge of what went on in the background. He said he was asked by a friend to give him his bank account details.
‘He wasn’t even aware the money was in his account and then taken out again. He was naïve enough to go along with it in the first place. When he realised the money had been there he asked his friend again who said there was nothing to worry about,’ said Mr Taaffe.
Judge McNulty said that surely this would have sparked ‘some degree of suspicion or concern’ on Mr Sheehan’s part but Mr Taaffe said it could have been a degree of ‘misplaced loyalty’ and that his client, who has no previous convictions, has learned a serious lesson.
Judge McNulty said he doesn’t accept the defence claim of naivety and said that ‘young adults today are tech-savvy and social media aware like never before.’
‘To suggest that young Irish adults are naïve is naïve, and the likelihood of a stranger asking to access and to use your bank account for any innocent or genuine purpose is extremely remote,’ said Judge McNulty, adding it was ‘almost as risible or laughable as Father Ted saying that money was “resting in my account.” Accordingly, the Father Ted defence is not sustainable.’
He added that no ‘sane intelligent person’ can permit the movement of money through his or her bank account without suspecting some link to crime.
‘The epidemic of online bank robbery and the laundering of stolen money are being facilitated by young Irish adults and so those willing to act as money mules need to learn that to facilitate crime is just as serious as committing crime.’
In convicting Mr Sheehan of the offence, Judge McNulty said it is ‘far from a minor offence’ and that punishing the offender in a lenient manner would be to minimise and even trivialise the offence. He sentenced him to six months in prison having taken into consideration his early plea, no previous conviction and his expression of regret.
Recognisances were fixed in the defendant’s own bond of €100, with no cash required.